Yellow jacket nests the size of a Volkswagen Beetle with as many as 15,000 wasps inside are popping up after a mild winter.

By Meghan Overdeep
July 1, 2019
Twitter/Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Agricultural experts in Alabama are warning residents of wasp “super nests,” nests the size of a Volkswagen Beetle with as many as 15,000 wasps inside―about three to four times more than a normal nest.

Usually, the winter freeze kills off wasp colonies. But when colonies do manage to survive the winter, a super nest, or perennial yellow jacket nest, can form. Gulp.

Entomologists told the Alabama Cooperative Extension System that milder winters combined with plentiful food allow some colonies to enter spring with much larger numbers.

“The queens are the only ones who have an antifreeze compound in their blood,” Charles Ray, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, told The New York Times. “So normally, a surviving queen will have to start a colony from scratch in the spring. With our climate becoming warmer, there might be multiple surviving queens producing more than 20,000 eggs each.”

The Alabama Extension said this year is already outpacing 2006, when 90 super nests were identified in the state.

“If we are seeing them a month sooner than we did in 2006, I am very concerned that there will be a large number of them in the state,” Ray explained in a news release. “The nests I have seen this year already have more than 10,000 workers and are expanding rapidly.”

These super nests can be attached to cars, inside garages and sheds, in or on the ground, or on homes. And all the nest’s residents are poised to sting.

“Yellow jackets will defend the nest to the death, fighting tooth and nail,” University of Georgia agricultural agent James Murphy told WSBTV. “And unlike bees, they can sting multiple times.”

Whatever you do, don’t touch or even approach the nest—yellow jackets are responsible for almost all of the stinging deaths in the United States.

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Alabama residents who suspect they’ve found a super nest should contact Ray by email at raychah@aces.edu or at raychah@auburn.edu so he can document it and collect insect specimens. A special team might be needed if you want the nest removed.  

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